As someone who takes the public transport daily, I can feel the improvements that Lui Tuck Yew has tried to make to the transport system. The higher frequency of trains and buses and distance based fares where commuters do not have to pay the penalty for multiple transfers.
Unfortunately, he inherited a rotting apple from his predecessors such as Raymond Lim and Yeo Cheow Tong, both of whom are known to be just happy taking their million dollar salary and virtually doing nothing. Some of the solutions that Lui Tuck Yew implemented would take time to come to fruitation, like the new mrt lines that are being built and the reform of the COE system.
Lui Tuck Yew was one who went to the ground to get feedback without any publicity or PR stunts but what was not in his favour was his unfriendly face, cold demeanor and bad fashion sense (very bad hair). A million dollar salary should get you better clothes, better image. But when he was Chief of Navy during my NS time, Lui Tuck Yew was also like that. He looked awkward and people felt distant from him, but once he started talking to you, it wasn’t that bad. He doesn’t feel like a snake oil seller.
During his time, the welfare of transport workers also improved as many were stretched due to the long working hours. Ultimately, the root cause of our public transport is its private ownership. Being profit driven and paying high dividends took its toll on the transport system, when the money should have been poured back to maintain and upgrade the rail system. Lui Tuck Yew must have been aware of this because he started the leasing model where transport companies do not own the rail and bus network but only operate them.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he had clashed with his big boss to implement his ideas and to finally take away the rail assets from the beleaguered SMRT.
Lui Tuck Yew was introduced in the 2006 General Elections and back then he said, “Unless you’ve stayed all your life in a rental flat, home ownership may be something you take for granted. It was almost beyond our dreams.”
His mother died when he was six, so Lui Tuck Yew grew up with his bank clerk father and older twin brothers. For 25 years, home was a Housing Board rental flat in Tiong Bahru. It was not until some years after he finished university and worked, that the family finally got a flat of their own in Bukit Batok. Despite his many achievements in life in the years since, he still relishes the thrill of buying that first flat with his father.
I wish him all the best.